Heat-related deaths nationwide have been on the rise since 1975, and athletic programs everywhere are looking at ways to combat that trend. Notre Dame High School in Lawrence Township, N.J., is among the schools leading the charge, as its football players recently underwent a cutting-edge Aerobic Strength Test.

At a cost of $45 per player -- in this case funded by the student-athletes, not the school -- the test identifies undertrained athletes who are more susceptible to heat illness. An article on NJ.com explains the test in further detail:"The computerized test, using a treadmill and a breathing apparatus, gradually raises the heart rate of an athlete over 180 beats per minute. The test measure the amount of oxygen delivered and consumed during strenuous exercise. The test measures metabolic equivalents, which identify players with low heat tolerance."

So far the test has been a hit with coaches and players. Notre Dame assistant football coach and performance director John McKenna told NJ.com, "Now I know which kids I can push and which kids I have to back off and bring along more slowly."

"After this, I know where I need to be physically to do all the things I want to do," junior tailback Lorenzo Bryant said.

Of Notre Dame's 72 football players, only two were identified as having a low heat tolerance. The school plans to retest players on August 8, just before the team begins practicing in pads.

Beat the HeatHeat-related facts and figures from around the country

- Between 1975-79 there were eight heat-related deaths during sports in the U.S., according to the USA Today. Between 2005-09 there were 18.

- The number of heat-related deaths among high school and college football players tripled between 1994 and 2009.

- The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association requires each football program to go through "heat acclimation week" in just helmets before going to pads.

- Illinois has a 14-day heat acclimatization process, as well as a ban on two-a-day practices on consecutive days.

-The Youth Sports Safety Alliance launched the first-ever "National Action Plan for Sports Safety" earlier this year, encouraging schools to adopt increased safety strategies, as well as heat acclimatization protocols.

Michael Gaio is eMedia Editor of Athletic Business.